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What is Instagram?

Instagram is a popular online mobile-based app where users can share photos and short videos. The app comes with a built-in camera and photo editing tool that allows users to edit photos, and users are able to comment on photos and videos. Instagram is also able to post to other large social media websites, including Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr. Instagram is the 4th most popular social media community in Australia with 5 million monthly active users according to Social Media News Australia, and over 400 million worldwide according to Instagram.

Why try Instagram?

Instagram is very similar to Facebook but focuses on the more visual medium of photos and videos. Instagram has the feature of streamlining the process of uploading photos by being able to take a picture, edit the picture, and upload to multiple social media websites in one application. This greatly helps to reduce the number of steps required to upload a photo or video and therefore helps reduce possible obstacles for assistive technology users. If a user finds one of the other websites inaccessible, using the Instagram app can be an effective and easy alternative.

While Instagram’s feature set is quite visual, there are people who are blind that use the app to take photos and receive feedback. For example the BBC has highlighted a blind Instagram user taking photos at music concerts.

Instagram features

  • Upload Photos
  • Upload Videos: Up to a 15-second length.
  • Comments: Users are able to comment on your posts, and you can post on others.
  • Photo Editing: Simple photo and video editing tools are available built-in to the app.
  • Upload to multiple social media sites: The ability to upload to multiple social media websites at the same time, saving time and acting as an accessible alternative to posting on the other websites.

Instagram accessibility status

The Instagram app is owned by Facebook and therefore has a similar quality of accessibility as the Facebook app due to its dedicated accessibility team. Both iPhone with VoiceOver and Android with TalkBack work well with the app. Additional information on using Instagram and reading Instagram comments can be found in videos published by Tommy Edison.

Instagram’s accessibility issues

Due to the lack of users providing alternative text, caption support and audio description, vision and hearing impaired users may face challenges in using Instagram. The application is very multimedia heavy and driven by user content, and so the accessibility of this content is dependent on the users who upload it. While the app doesn't support alternative text for images natively, users are able to post an image with an initial comment that can act as an alternative text.

Overcoming Instagram's accessibility issues

Adding alternative text

When posting an image to Instagram, users are able to add a caption which can act as an alternative text. Adding alternative text to photos can only be put in place by the person uploading the content, and unfortunately user's captions often do not describe the image or video. Vision-impaired users require the person uploading  the image or video to add descriptive captions to describe the image.

Adding a text transcript

Due to the lack of support for closed captions and audio description on videos, people uploading content must provide a text alternative in the caption of the video for hearing impaired and blind users.

Instagram accessibility quick reference

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